Identity theft continues to be one of the most frequent complaints made to the Illinois Attorney General. Today, Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that 2,636 identity theft complaints were received in 2015 alone. http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2016_03/20160307.html. Beyond merely filing a complaint, consumers need to know how to deal with identity theft should their information be compromised.
Tip No. 1: Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/. In January, the FTC announced a “one-stop website” where consumers can log in and obtain a personalized plan of action.
Tip No. 2: Put a fraud alert on your credit bureau report and file a police report. Keep copies of everything. Down the road, if you end up receiving collection letters or a debt collection lawsuit on a fraudulent account, having this information handy may provide an immediate collection defense.
Tip No. 3: Don’t ignore data breach notices. If you receive a letter indicating your information may have been compromised, check all credit card and bank accounts and pull a copy of your credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Make sure you recognize all charges and accounts and update your calendar to remind you to check these accounts every month for at least one year after you receive a data breach notice. Contact a lawyer to see if legal action may be pending as a result of the data breach.
Tip No. 4: Don’t rely on the telephone to lodge a dispute. If you end up seeing fraudulent activity on one of your accounts, confirm your disputes in writing. Send them by fax or certified mail so you have confirmation your written dispute was received.
Tip No. 5: Don’t throw anything away. Keep all letters, reports, and proofs that your disputes were processed and resolved. You may need them should the fraudulent information re-appear.
Most of all, try not to panic. If you follow the steps above or contact a trusted legal advisor for help, you can hopefully reverse any damage and protect your information for the future.